Hands on Fun, Cooking for Anyone: A Food Literacy Program for Kids
December 20, 2018
In this blog, Andrea Falcone, Registered Dietitian and Certified Fitness Professional, shares her inspiration for creating Hands on Fun, Cooking for Anyone, a food literacy program where children learn, play, be active, and strengthen their confidence in the kitchen.
As a registered dietitian, I have always been passionate about teaching kids about nutrition, whether it is through interactive presentations or cooking demonstrations. Over 6 years ago, I dove into the research surrounding the importance of good food habits, including cooking skills and the impact these have later in life. I would lay awake at night thinking about what I could do to combine my passion and the evidence about the benefits of teaching food skills to kids…and Hands on Fun, Cooking for Anyone was born. The program was designed to instill a critical life skill in our youth based on multiple bodies of research indicating the importance this has on one’s health, confidence levels and overall life skills knowledge. Since launching in the summer of 2016, the program has brought over 75 students into teaching kitchens, and has been an internship placement for future dietitians since the summer of 2017, helping to build competencies amongst our future dietetic professionals.
Research shows that children who develop their cooking skills at a younger age exhibit greater confidence and skills cooking as adults, and that teaching children how to cook is considered a great way to talk about healthy ingredients and how food affects our bodies. On top of this, children are given the day-to-day repetition of certain skills, building on new skills each day and constant practice over a one- to two-week period. The research has been the foundation; however over the years I have seen how repeat campers have improved their eating habits, improved their likelihood of trying new foods, become less picky eaters and boosted their confidence. With each passing year, I incorporate new research, new ideas and new recipes to continue to spark interest in the campers, especially the repeat campers.
The best part of camp is when parents and campers email or message me about the new recipes they’ve tried at home, how families now choose one day that the kids will cook, and if it happens to be English Muffin Pizzas every time, it’s still thoroughly enjoyed. Kids have shown more interest in all activities from the grocery shopping, to the prep and even clean up! One mom says:
“[My daughter] is generally not a very adventurous eater and I see the benefit the camps have had on this [at home].”
Each camp is based around a different theme, like our upcoming Winter Camp which is a “Battle of the Bakers”. Children will have the opportunity to make their lunch each day as well as take part in a fun and healthy baking challenge in the afternoon where they will also have the opportunity to work closely in a group, developing team work and leadership skills.
The experience of creating Hands on Fun, Cooking for Anyone, working with children and future nutrition professionals, and witnessing how the program has impacted the kids (and their families) has been so rewarding. I’m excited to share this program, in hopes that others will be inspired to create more opportunities to teach kids about food literacy.
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